One of the important factors to consider in owning or adopting a rabbit is veterinary care.
Choosing a good vet and being willing and able to take your rabbit along when he/she requires it is a vital part of caring for him or her. It is worth noting in choosing a Veterinary Practice that there have been many advances in rabbit medicine over the last few years, and not all practices specialise in dealing with small animals. It is therefore important to ensure that the vet that you propose to use is confident in treating rabbits.
The RSPCA Bedfordshire South Branch neuters all rabbits within its care. While male rabbits can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend (usually around 14 weeks of age), the operation is not carried out on females until they are around 6 months old. We will therefore provide neutering vouchers for any young rabbit rehomed by us before they have been neutered.Neutering not only prevents unwanted breeding, but it also has significant health and behavioural benefits for both male and female rabbits.
80% of female rabbits die of uterine cancer by the age of five
This is a startling statistic, but it is an illness that can easily be prevented by neutering your female rabbit while she is young and in good health.
Neutering reduces aggression and territorial behaviour
Like tom cats, unneutered male rabbits can become aggressive and territorial and will frequently spray urine. Unneutered male rabbits must also live alone.
Unneutered female rabbits will often also become territorial and aggressive, and can even attack their owners, as well as other rabbits, for invading their territory. They may also suffer repeated phantom pregnancies, constantly pulling out their own fur in order to line a nest. This is not only distressing for the female rabbit concerned but she is also likely to aggressively defend her nest from other intruders, including her owner or rabbit companion.
As with any operation, there is always a risk when using an anaesthetic therefore veterinary opinion should always be sought and every rabbit considered on an individual basis. Generally however if a rabbit is in good health, the benefits of neutering will outweigh the potential risk. For further information if you are considering having your own rabbit neutered, please see houserabbit.co.uk’s neutering leaflet
All rabbits rehomed through the RSPCA Bedfordshire South Branch will have had initial vaccinations against mxymatosis and VHD. Should you wish to adopt a rabbit from us you will be required to continue these vaccinations for your pets.
It is likely that you will have encountered wild rabbits affected with this disease at some point. Often the rabbits that you will come across with this disease will be in the advanced stages of suffering with swellings in the skin of the face, ears and anus which will make it difficult for the rabbit to eat and drink or see.
Myxomatosis affects domestic rabbits
What you may not know however, is that pet rabbits are also at risk. The virus that causes this disease is spread by fleas and mosquitos. Therefore while pet rabbits who might come in to contact with wild rabbits are clearly more at risk, the virus may also be carried, for example in hay which has been in contact with an infected rabbit.
Rabbits may be vaccinated against this disease from 6 weeks of age, but thereafter booster vaccinations should also be given. Your vet will be able to give you more information on the prevalence of myxomatosis in your area, however as a general rule a booster is recommended every six months.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)
This is also a fatal disease, but again one that can be simply prevented by regular vaccination. One injection every 12 months will protect your pet from this distressing disease. An infected rabbit will die extremely quickly, often with no prior warning, but will simply bleed to death.
This virus is extremely persistent and may even be carried on clothing therefore even house rabbits remain at risk. Rabbits under 6 weeks of age are resistant to this disease. Therefore the first dose is usually given at around 10 weeks and thereafter annual boosters are required.
Veterinary recommendation is that vaccinations for myxomatosis and VHD should be given at least two weeks apart, usually with myxomatosis being given first. As with all vaccinations, they contain harmless variants of the diseases which encourage the rabbits immune system to generate antibodies. It is therefore vitally important that the rabbit is 100% healthy at the time of vaccination. Any concerns must be discussed with your vet prior to the vaccine being given.
For details on the costs we incur neutering and vaccinating our rabbits, please see Why we need your help.